HONG KONG/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Western banks are seeking clarification from China’s securities watchdog on proposals to allow them to take over their onshore securities ventures, amid concerns about high asset value requirements and limits to ownership by non-financial investors.
Giving foreign financial firms a controlling stake in their China securities joint ventures is a key part of China’s pledge to ease foreign ownership curbs, especially in the country’s trillion-dollar financial sector.
But draft rules released for consultation last month by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) could have the opposite effect and stymie broadening participation, people with knowledge of the matter warned.
Under the proposed rules, controlling shareholders must have a net asset value (NAV) of at least 100 billion yuan ($16 billion), and non-financial Chinese investors would be limited to a one-third shareholding.
If the NAV rule applied to the Western banks’ local units, as opposed to the global entity, most international banks would be ruled out.
Bankers are rushing to submit requests for clarification of the rules by Sunday, when the consultation period closes.
Lyndon Chao, head of equities at the Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA), which represents global banks in Asia, said that while China had opened the door to foreign capital it appeared to be reluctant to welcome overseas securities firms.
“(The door) welcoming foreign securities firms to enter China onshore on a level playing field appears less open than what we had originally thought, based on the second consultation and the net asset value requirement for firms seeking majority ownership,”